Game Review

Professor Layton and the Last Specter Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Smells like evil spirit

By this point, most of our readers already know if they will like a Professor Layton game long before it's actually released. This is due to the fact that while the specifics of Layton's investigations change, the gameplay remains largely the same.

With games such as these, however, that's not a bad thing. The Professor Layton series hit the ground running, with its wit, cleverness and puzzle design winning players over from the start. The latest title, Professor Layton and the Last Specter, offers very little in the way of evolution. And yet, when the game is so charming, gripping and fun, we doubt that will upset his fans at all.

For those who aren't familiar with the series, The Last Specter may actually be the best place to start. It's a prequel, meaning Layton encounters for the first time some of the characters that he'll work closely with in the other games. It's as much an origin story as anything else, and it's a darned fine one at that.

The game begins with Layton — who at this point in his career works alone, though that won't last long — receiving a letter from an old friend. The letter requests his help, as a giant phantom periodically appears to destroy the town of Misthallery, and the residents can't hold out much longer. Needless to say Layton is quick to investigate, but even a bizarre story like that is more complicated than it originally appears, as Layton's friend turns out to be the mayor of that town, and he also doesn't seem to remember having written that letter in the first place...

Saying more would spoil at least one — and probably more — of the fun twists and turns that the story takes, suffice it to say that the mystery is both satisfying and effectively creepy to experience. Cheery character art and quirky companions keep the atmosphere from ever getting too dark, but — as in the previous games — it's difficult to avoid getting swept away by the story.

The game is played by tapping the stylus anywhere you'd like to explore. Sometimes you'll elicit a comment from Layton and his team, sometimes you'll uncover a hint coin — more on those later — and sometimes you'll discover a puzzle.

As you might guess, the puzzles are the backbone of the game, and we can certainly vouch for their difficulty. Some puzzles are required to move the story forward, but many of them are optional. That doesn't mean you'll want to overlook them, though. Whether they're based on logic, maths, trial and error, matching, memory, observation or lateral thinking, nearly all of them will drive you crazy until you arrive at their often hilariously obvious solutions. (An early puzzle involves getting Layton's young charge Luke to come out of his room, and it's easily one of the best-designed puzzles yet.)

If you have difficulty with a puzzle, you can redeem hint coins for some guidance. The hints always fall short of providing the answer, but they certainly can help you zero in on what, exactly, the puzzle expects you to do in order to solve it, and that's quite helpful.

As usual, the game is packed full of brilliant animated sequences and exceptional voice acting. At various points in the story it did seem like we were forced to wait quite a long time between puzzles, but that's a small gripe, and one alleviated somewhat by the enjoyability of the sequences standing in our way.

One other important inclusion is Professor Layton's London Life, an additional game that seems like an afterthought on the packaging and in the instruction manual, but it's actually a full-fledged retro-style life sim / RPG in its own right, and quite worthy of being played entirely separate from the main story.

London Life allows you to create an avatar of your own and, well, basically live out life in Professor Layton's version of London. It's adorable, engrossing, and shockingly bawdy. You can also exchange items and visit your friends' towns via Wi-Fi, but there's more than enough to keep you busy here without ever having to leave.

Conclusion

Professor Layton and the Last Specter is another top-quality game in a truly brilliant series. It challenges your mind in a way very few games seriously attempt to do, and the feeling you get when you solve a particularly difficult puzzle is less one of relief than it is a desire to leap ahead in the game and find the next one. Playing this game is its own reward, and we'd have it no other way.

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Game Trailer

Get acquainted with the famous top hat professor in this brand new trailer to promote the upcoming release of Professor Layton and the Last S

User Comments (48)

LEGEND_MARIOID

#2

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

Layton never let's us down. Big fans of the game series in my houeshold. So London Life IS very much worth having then?

yoyogamer

#4

yoyogamer said:

It love how we get a new one of these localized every year, I just finished the Last of Unwound Future's puzzles and plan pick this one up soon.

she_gamer

#5

she_gamer said:

Still on the fence about these games. Once the mystery is solved, is there any replay value? I loved Zack & Wiki, but once I solved all the puzzles, I never touched it again.

Teh-Ray

#7

Teh-Ray said:

@5 she_gamer
In terms of replay value, there's a lot of extra puzzles to do after the story is done, but after you've pretty much done everything, there really isn't any replay value to speak of. But in a game like this, that's not surprising at all.

Trust me, though, it's good, especially if you love puzzle games.

BJQ1972

#8

BJQ1972 said:

Well, I placed my order through Play-Asia today, for the US version complete with London Life, and still a couple of pounds cheaper than Amazon.co.uk.

CorbsAdmin

#10

Corbs said:

Phil finally cracked and got a lawyer so he could sue Nlife for giving him only horrible games to review. Nlife settled out of court agreeing to allow him to review one good game for every 30 horrible ones he reviews. :D

bboy2970

#12

bboy2970 said:

Getting this in about an hour. I'm so excited!! Its a little unhealthy how much I love the Professor Layton games and this one will be no exception. That's a little surprising to hear you can visit a friend's London over Wi-Fi. that's very fleshed out and in-depth for something that's just a mere extra to the main game.

JohnDoe123

#13

JohnDoe123 said:

Good to hear this is a good starting point. I've been wanting to play the Professor Layton games for a while, so I'll start now. London Life sounds great, too.

HipsterDashie

#14

HipsterDashie said:

Will you be providing a separate review score for the EU/UK version to take into account the lack of London Life?

Henmii

#16

Henmii said:

Nice review! Sadly the European version won't have the bonus rpg. And the dutch version doesn't have the awesome voice-acting either (we get the cheap dutch voice-acting since Pandora's box!). But I still will get the game, since I love the Professor Layton games!

By the way: What does "bawdy" mean?

Kage_88

#17

Kage_88 said:

Definitely picking this up! I love the Layton games - and Layton as a character; how he uses brains over brawn to handle situations, and the stories he's entwined with (the 2nd and 3rd games nearly made me cry).

Now...which version to get - NTSC or PAL?

FonistofCruxis

#18

FonistofCruxis said:

Even though I got the last two Layton games near their European launch, due to all the other games coming out before the end of the year, I'll wait 'till next year to get it. I wonder if it will be able to top the lost future as my fave Layton game. I'm still disappointed about the lack of London life in the EU versions though but I won't import as I don't want to have to put up with Luke's awful voice in the American version.

WiiLovePeace

#20

WiiLovePeace said:

@5 & @7 - this Layton game comes with a seperate 100+ hour RPG called "London Life", how's that for replay value for you? :p

I'm still going through other Layton games before this one, but I'll get there soon.

theblackdragonAdmin

#21

theblackdragon said:

@Henmii: think 'humorously risque or indecent'; it means they might use more innuendo or adult humor than would be expected, but probably in a fun way. :3

Kid_A

#24

Kid_A said:

I was going to resist buying this one, I really was...
but then I read the description of the mystery and DANG IT! I'm sold. Sorry, wallet.

@Phil
Is there any trouble with using the Wifi if you play this on the 3DS? I remember I could never download puzzles on my DSi because it wasn't compatible with DS WiFi.

warioswoods

#26

warioswoods said:

I'm finally playing through this series now (started the first one not long ago) after having it on my backlist forever. It's good fun, and I can see how the format will addict me quickly. It's like on of those children's books that has puzzles and storytelling mixed in.

Dyl_73

#27

Dyl_73 said:

@WiiLovePeace
What about the EU version that doesn't have London Life?
I have enjoyed the previous games but less and less as the series has gone along. I would have bought this with London Life included, but won't bother now until it's in a bargain bin somewhere.
£75 so far for the other three games.... I can't bring myself to pay another £25 for a few puzzles with a story attached.

Stine

#29

Stine said:

I think I'll get the EU version first. Then I might pick up the US one later, if I really want the RPG.

JonWahlgrenAdmin

#32

JonWahlgren said:

London Life was done by the folks over at Brownie Brown, who did Mother 3. So, again Europe is screwed out of a gem! :)

MayhemStaff

#33

Mayhem said:

Review is earlier than I expected. Score is what I expected though ;)

Henmii

#35

Henmii said:

"think 'humorously risque or indecent'; it means they might use more innuendo or adult humor than would be expected, but probably in a fun way. :3"

Thanks for the answer!

Sh00kst3r

#36

Sh00kst3r said:

I've always wanted to play a Layton game. And with that extra RPG game, I think I'll start here. :D

yoyogamer

#37

yoyogamer said:

London Life is hilarious! A tombstone reads "Don't be silly honey, this milk only expired yesterday!"- The last words of a loving husband. :D

FantasiaWHT

#38

FantasiaWHT said:

As for replay, at least one Layton game in the past had weekly downloadable puzzles, but I'm not sure if this one does.

MayhemStaff

#40

Mayhem said:

@Fantasia - all the three previous Layton games have unlockable puzzles on them. They didn't start up until a month or two after release date iirc.

Chris720

#41

Chris720 said:

No surprise really, the Proffessor Layton series has been truly phenominal. Unfortunately I can't afford it quite yet... maybe next month...

rhythmheavenfan

#42

rhythmheavenfan said:

Another exceptional game in the series, although the story is taking longer to get into than in Unwound Future.

Sonic260

#43

Sonic260 said:

After Unwond Future being my first Layton game, I reaaaalllllyyyy wanna buy this, but I'm saving my money for Skyward Sword! DX

geekygamer

#46

geekygamer said:

Honestly,i would get the american version jst because of RPG london life.But i just CANT STAND lani minnela (voice actress) as luke!So im gonna get the EU version.Besides,in my sisters latest N GAMER issue it said that the RPG wasnt that good.I dont belive them but it would be more hassle to buy the American version online.Annyone agreeing with me or having the same problem?If so,please tell me about it ^^

Dodger

#47

Dodger said:

The only Professor Layton game that I've played is Unwound Future (fantastic story, great game. Wish it had replayability. I wanted to replay it so badly, but I just couldn't get into it again once I knew the solutions, so I sold it.) I'm getting a game for a semi-long trip I'm going on later this week so I think I might pick this up. I expect the story isn't as good as Unwound Future (which I've heard from fans of the series is the best) but that still leaves the possibility of a very nice story.

Carnuss

#48

Carnuss said:

Another brilliant entry in the Professor Layton saga. It has more content than Curious Village and Pandora's Box. The main story offers altogether 155 puzzles. It took me almost 40 hours to find and complete all story puzzles (compared to the 24 hours required for the completion of Curious Village or Pandora's Box). In addition, 15 puzzles become available in the Layton's Challenges section after completion of the game. The Weekly Puzzle Download/Unlock section offers another 33 puzzles in my opinion.

This time, there are four mini-games (a toy train, an aquarium, a puppet theatre and a mouse catching game).

All-in-all, I've found the story less charming than in Curious Village or Pandora's Box, though it was obvious that Level5 aimed to please all fans of the Professor Layton series.

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